Have you ever walked through a nutrition store wondering what all the colorful powders and jars with muscle-bound people on them can do for your workout? With so many choices, it can be a challenge to decide what you need and to be confident that it’ll make a difference.
From fat-burners and pre-workout supplements to protein powders and post-workout blends that enhance recovery, supplements offer legit advantages for those who know how and when to use them. However, not all supplements are created equally – since they don’t have to be regulated by the FDA, it’s important for fit-conscious consumers to do their due diligence and ensure that the supplements they’re using have all the right ingredients without unwanted impurities.
This guide will serve as a Supplements 101 course that will get you acquainted with the forms, types, and ingredients associated with supplements, and what they can do for your performance.
The First Step is Knowing What You Need Most
Just about every type of fitness supplement can be useful to somebody, but the kind that’s right for you will depend largely on your fitness goals. Check out these examples:
- Weight gaining supplements are useful for those who want to bulk up
- Fat burners stimulate the metabolism and can help you get shredded
- Pre-workouts provide an energy boost to carry you through the workout
- Post-workouts aid your muscle recovery phase
- Nootropics are used to enhance cognitive function which is useful in many cases
- Protein supplements provide the amino acids you need to grow muscle
- Multivitamins contain nutrients that are crucial for bodily function and muscle growth
As you can see, there are fitness supplements for every occasion. To determine which is best to try first, consider your biggest goals and obstacles. Having trouble keeping enough energy for a high-quality workout? Pre-workout supplements are specifically designed to remedy that exact problem. Hate dealing with sore muscles once you limp your way out of the gym? Try a post-workout supplement and give your muscles the nutrients they need to heal and grow. Through research and experimentation, you can find the optimal supplement to complement your fitness routine.
Want a Quality Fitness Supplement? Here’s What to Look for
Even among different varieties of the same type of supplement, ingredients, price, and dosage can vary greatly. However, there are usually a set of crucial ingredients you’re going to want to look for in any type of supplement you choose. While you’ll see variations and extras, these are the general types of ingredients that each type of supplement should have.
Common Ingredients in a Pre-Workout Supplement
The goal of a pre-workout supplement is not only to get you pumped up for your workout but also to maximize your performance and provide fuel for your muscles. That’s why stimulants like Caffeine, Ginseng, and Taurine are extremely common in a pre-workout supplement.
Since an energy boost is just one of the benefits of a pre-workout, branch-chained amino acids (BCAAs) are also included so your muscles have the essential nutrients they need to grow. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, so these extra BCAAs can boost your results significantly.
The third type of ingredient that is most often found in a pre-workout is Creatine. The purpose of creatine as a supplement is to enhance your performance in fast, explosive workouts. Creatine is most often used by bodybuilders and is known to retain water in the muscles. In addition to its role in pre-workout blends, creatine is often used as a supplement in its own right.
Common Ingredients in a Fat Burner
Fat-burning supplements such as Stacker 3 and Hydroxycut have gained mainstream popularity, but there are numerous brands that take different approaches to boosting your metabolism and burning fat. Fat burners are among the most complex supplements to break down since they often use proprietary blends and a wide range of rare ingredients.
Anyone who has taken fat burners knows that they’re most often loaded with stimulants that will leave your blood rushing for the next few hours. These stimulants include caffeine anhydrous and Yohimbe extract, and their goal is to boost your metabolism and stimulate weight-loss.
Fat-burners typically provide a variety of other functions as well, such as boosting calorie expenditure and including a nootropic mood enhancing blend. The enhancements to calorie expenditure are far more common and are performed by ingredients like green tea extract and capsaicin.
Common Ingredients in Post Workout Supplements
You may ask why you’d need a supplement for after your workout, but post-workout supplements are useful in helping your muscles recover and ensuring that your nutrients are properly used for repairing and growing your muscles. This is why BCAAs are the most vital part of a pre-workout supplement – the combination of amino acids is exactly what your muscles need for a safe recovery.
Carbohydrates are another typical ingredient in a post-workout supplement, mostly because they’ll be completely depleted after your workout. While low-carb diets are great for losing weight, you need the right kind of carbs after your workout to aid in protein synthesis. In many cases, your post-workout supplement will have an added nutritional boost to help you make a speedy recovery.
The third most prevalent ingredient in a post-workout supplement is one that is talked about often but rarely understood: Antioxidants. Found in beta-carotene in addition to vitamins like E and C, antioxidants are vital in preventing the breakdown of your cells. Due to that property, antioxidants provide huge benefits for those who are trying to bulk up and grow muscle.
Examples of Popular Supplement Products
Walking through GNC or Vitamin Shoppe and seeing the many canisters of powders and capsules can be intimidating to those who don’t know exactly what to look for. Now you can put your worries at ease as you peruse our recommendations for the best casual and hardcore supplements for enhancing your fitness routine.
Fat Burner Examples
Best Casual Fat Burner: Hydroxycut: Next Gen
No brand has done more to make fat burners a mainstream product than Hydroxycut. Their Next Gen product is the latest variation, and it contains a nice blend of reliable and experimental ingredients to help you shed pounds – all at an affordable price.
Best Hardcore Fat Burner: Arnold Schwarzenegger Iron Cuts
With a higher price and dosage than most fat burners, Iron Cuts is also designed to do a lot more. Expect the same metabolism boosting power, but it’s combined with an estrogen blocker and muscle-hardening agent to take your performance to new heights.
Protein Snack Examples
Best Casual Protein Snack: Vegan Cookie Dough by Bhu Foods
With an ingredient list that is completely natural and plant-based, Vegan Cookie Dough is a creative protein snack that provides 10g of protein without all the filler found in other brands. Those who are health-conscious and who prefer natural ingredients will appreciate this versatile protein snack.
Best Hardcore Protein Snack: Big 100 Colossal Protein Bars
Loaded with protein and tasting surprisingly good, the Big 100 Colossal Protein Bars pack 400 calories and 32g of protein each. Flavors like Apple Crisp and Super Cookie Crunch will leave you tempted to eat the whole box, but remember they contain 47g of carbs as well.
Pre-Workout Supplement Examples
Best Casual Pre-Workout Supplement: Vintage Blast by Old School Labs
One hundred percent vegetarian and composed of all-natural ingredients, Vintage Blast is an extremely popular and potent pre-workout powder. Available in multiple flavors, try Vintage Blast before your next workout and the difference in your energy level will be massive.
Best Hardcore Pre-Workout Supplement: God of Rage XXX
Not for the faint of heart, God of Rage XXX by Centurion Labs is designed to provide an unparalleled boost to your energy level, aggression, and performance.
Quick Tips for Buying Supplements
- Beware of proprietary blends that don’t annotate the amount of each ingredient. These often hide fillers or other deceitful information.
- However, not all proprietary blends are bad – look for reviews if you’re undecided to see if a supplement is right for you.
- Dosage is an important factor – some supplements require you to take an entire package of capsules for a single dose, so it’s up to you whether that’s worth the effort.
- It’s always a good idea to start small when it comes to experimenting with different fitness supplements, especially for stimulating fat burners and pre-workout products.
- Hydration is of extra importance when taking supplements. Many supplements require you to consume a full glass of water with each dose.
Which Supplement Will Take Your Workout to the Next Level?
Whether your preferred workout is running a few miles a week or spending hours in the gym, it’s very likely that there is a fitness supplement that can make the path to your fitness goals quicker and easier. While there is certainly no magic pill that will give you the body you’ve always wanted, the right supplement used in the proper way can make a noticeable difference in the results you get with each workout. Ultimately, those with an unquenchable desire to achieve their fitness goals will use supplements as the competitive edge they need to crush their workouts like never before – once you find the right supplements for your needs and body, that edge can be yours as well.